Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A pair of apparently unrelated water issues have been plaguing the Cherrydale neighborhood over the past 24 hours.

Last night, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) reported “low water pressure along 4000-4200 Lee Highway, which includes several apartment buildings.”

Tipsters tell ARLnow that water service was out until the early morning hours for residents and some businesses, possibly due to a mistake by the contractor working to replace a 90-year-old water main along nearby N. Taylor Street. Other tipsters reported that some local households had rust-colored water around the time of the outage.

DES spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow that crews worked overnight to fix the problem.

Yesterday, we had water pressure issues with a newly connected main that impacted a number of residents in the Cherrydale area. The contractor had completed 1 of 2 connections to a new 12-inch water main as part of planned work in the area. It was expected that the redundancy in the system from one connection would be adequate enough to maintain enough pressure and service to the area. The normal pressure in the area is about 80 psi and the one-way feed dropped the pressure to 50 psi. This error caused the unexpected drop in pressure. The contractor was called back in around 10 p.m. to expedite the second connection which was planned for Tuesday during the day. Water pressure was restored around 5 a.m.

This afternoon, meanwhile, crews responded to another nearby Cherrydale location, at the Five Points Intersection, for a report of a burst pipe.

Water could be seen streaming from underneath the road, forming large puddles on the pavement and prompting a lane closure, but not a complete road closure.

“There is a confirmed valve leak near Lee Highway and N. Quebec Street,” O’Brien said. “This is unrelated to the water issues experience last night and in a different pressure zone. Crews are scheduled to begin the repairs 10 p.m. this evening. Approximately 50 customers may be impacted.”

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A new senior living center, perhaps the first to be built in Arlington in decades, could soon be on the way for a property along Lee Highway.

McLean-based Artis Senior Living has filed plans with the county to build a six-story facility with 175 units on a 2.79-acre property near Cherrydale. The building would be divided into two wings, surrounding a landscaped plaza and a new public park near the site, located at 2134 N. Taylor Street.

Artis has discussed the potential of bringing a senior living center to the property with neighbors in Cherrydale and Waverly Hills for close to a year now, but the company (which operates facilities across nine different states) only brought zoning applications to county officials in late November.

“The proposed facility would be the first new assisted living facility constructed in Arlington in almost 20 years,” Martin Walsh, an attorney representing Artis, wrote in a letter to zoning officials. “There is a sincere need for additional senior housing in Arlington. Currently, without sufficient capacity in the county, seniors are forced to look outside Arlington for assisted living. The proposed facility would allow Arlington’s seniors to ‘age in place’ and continue to call Arlington home.”

Artis’ plans call for one wing of the building to be about 173,600 square feet in size, with another at about 152,500 square feet. That would include room for 95 assisted living units, and another 80 specifically set aside for “memory care” patients.

The apartments would range in size from studios to one- or two-bedroom units. The buildings will overlook a plaza with green space for residents, which will sit over top of a partially buried parking garage. That will have about 108 spaces, under the company’s proposal, which Artis expects will be more than enough space for the center’s 50 employees.

The company also expects that close to 30 percent of its workforce will rely on nearby Metrobus and Arlington Transit routes to get to work, and a traffic analysis attached to the plans does not foresee the senior center impacting congestion on Lee Highway.

The new park, designed as a contribution from Artis to the county in order to benefit both the facility’s residents and neighbors, would be located at N. Taylor Street’s intersection with Lee Highway. Walsh noted in the application that a visioning study of the Lee Highway corridor completed in 2016 called for a new park on that site — the document was created ahead of a broader effort to draw up new plans for the entire corridor, which just began in earnest last month.

Once the county signs off this proposal, Artis plans to purchase the property, which is made up of several different parcels of land along the 4300 block of Lee Highway. They were owned for decades by the Courembis family, and neighbors have often debated what might become of them, though the homes on the land now sit empty, according to Arts’ application.

The company is asking for some zoning changes to allow for the construction of a senior center in the area, and submitted this application as a “site plan,” a process that will involve an additional layer of county scrutiny.

The Site Plan Review Committee will now hold meetings on the project and its design. Should it withstand that group’s review, it will need to advance to the Planning Commission and, ultimately the County Board for approval.

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) A busy, cold morning for local firefighters is getting busier.

Firefighters are on scene of a fire at the large Horizons Apartments complex at 4300 Old Dominion Drive, near Cherrydale. The fire is reported to be out but smoky conditions have been reported on the 9th and 10th floors.

Side streets in the area are blocked by the firefighting activity, according to the Arlington County Fire Department.

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Someone tried to break into the Saint Agnes Catholic School last Friday, according to Arlington County Police.

Police say they were called to the 2000 block of N. Randolph Street around 3:30 p.m. The Cherrydale neighborhood is home to both St. Agnes Catholic Church and its attached school building.

Callers told police that “an unknown suspect(s) attempted to force entry” to the school. However, they could not offer any description of the would-be burglars. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

Full details from a county crime report:

ATTEMPTED BURGLARY, 2018-12140180, 2000 block of N. Randolph Street. At approximately 3:23 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 1:00 p.m. and 2:29 p.m., an unknown suspect(s) attempted to force entry to a school. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

And here are some other highlights from the past week of crime reports, including some we’ve already reported:

ROBBERY, 2018-12170009, 900 block of S. Buchanan Street. At approximately 1:05 a.m. on December 17, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two victims were walking in the area when a known male suspect began following them. When the victims arrived at their destination, they asked the suspect to leave, however, the suspect threatened the victims and stole one victim’s cell phone before fleeing on foot prior to police arrival. A warrant for robbery was obtained for the suspect.

BURGLARY, 2018-12140219, 1200 block of N. Taft Street. At approximately 4:30 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 7:50 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., an unknown suspect gained entry to a residence and stole items of value. The suspect is described as a black male, 30-40 years old, approximately 6’0″ and 180-210 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. The investigation is ongoing.

PEDESTRIAN-INVOLVED CRASH, 2018-12130082, Fort Myer Drive at Lee Highway. At approximately 9:26 a.m. on December 13, police were dispatched to the report of a pedestrian-involved crash with injuries. Upon arrival, it was determined that a pedestrian pushing a child in a stroller was struck by a dump truck as she crossed the street. The pedestrian maneuvered the stroller out of the way and the child was not injured. The pedestrian was transported to an area hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the striking vehicle, John Washington, 63, of Silver Spring, MD, was charged with Reckless Driving and Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk.

BOMB THREAT, 2018-121300147, 1900 block of S. Eads Street/4300 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 2:00 p.m. on December 13, Arlington County Police began responding to three locations in Arlington County which had received bomb threats through electronic communications. Each location self-evacuated prior to police arrival. The threats are believed to be related to similar threats received through the United States. There is no known credible threat in Arlington County.

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) Arlington’s School Board will name a new Cherrydale middle school after civil rights activist Dorothy Hamm, opting against including any reference to the historic Stratford School on the new building’s site.

Following the Board’s unanimous vote yesterday (Thursday), the school will open next year as “Dorothy Hamm Middle School.” It’s set to be located at 4100 Vacation Lane, the former home of the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, and should hold about 1,000 students.

Though the process of naming the building hasn’t drawn quite as much controversy as the renaming of Washington-Lee High School, the debate has nonetheless raised familiar questions about how the county grapples with its history. The “Stratford” name presented a particularly thorny option for the Board to consider, as it has a bit of a complex legacy.

Many people around the community hoped to see the Stratford name stay attached to the new school, considering its significance in the civil rights movement in Virginia. The original Stratford Junior High School (which remains on the site) was the first school in the state to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision, marking the beginning of the end of Virginia’s policy of “massive resistance” to desegregation.

Yet the original school was named after Stratford Hall, the childhood plantation home of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, making some uncomfortable with the name’s connection to Lee’s legacy of defending slavery. After all, the Board voted just a few months ago to strip Lee’s name from W-L over similar concerns.

Accordingly, Hamm emerged as an alternative choice, given her role in fighting to integrate Stratford. Her children attended the school soon after its desegregation, and Hamm also supported a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington.

“What I really love is that this was a story of the moms of Arlington, who heard from their children,” said School Board member Barbara Kanninen. “They wanted to know why they couldn’t attend this school. That’s why they stood up and fought. By naming this building after Dorothy Hamm, we’re honoring the fight, rather than the place. I think it’s going to be a terrific message that we’re sending to the students of that school, and I think that’s something to be excited about.”

But in ditching the Stratford name entirely, the Board cast aside the recommendation of an advisory committee convened to offer recommendations for the school’s moniker. The group suggested either naming the building simply “Stratford Middle School” or the lengthier “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” to ensure a reference to the “Stratford” remained.

Board Vice Chair Tannia Talento proposed that the Board accept the latter option, but Kanninen made a motion to remove the “Historic Stratford Building” section of the name. That passed, but only on a narrow, 3-2 margin, with Talento and Board Chair Reid Golstein dissenting.

“I find it a bit incongruous that we all like the Dorothy Hamm name because we’re lauding the significant, dynamic and historic actions of Dorothy Hamm in the desegregation activity and, at the same time, setting aside the Stratford name, which is equally a part of the significant desegregation history here,” Goldstein said.

Dean Fleming, a friend of the Hamm family who has also been active in organizing opposition to the W-L name change, also told the Board that Hamm’s daughter, Carmela, is “not interested in having her mom’s name on school.” Dorothy Hamm herself passed away in 2004.

Instead, Fleming said her daughter suggested creating a “hall of honors” at Stratford to honor the family’s legacy, while preserving the original name of the building.

Yet Board member Nancy Van Doren argued that the school system has already sketched out an extensive plan for creating an “interpretative trail” and other memorials on the new school’s grounds to ensure that the full history of the Stratford building is available to students.

Though some historic preservation groups around the county have protested any removal of the Stratford name, Van Doren believes the new building will not lack for commemorations of its integration history.

“Those will all be up at the time the building opens,” Van Doren said. “And because it will all be physically there, on the site, I don’t think we need the ‘at the Historic Stratford School’ section of the name.”

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Arlington school officials will soon decide on a name for the new middle school to be built on the site of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale — but the complex history of the building, and its original name, has divided the community over which option is best.

A naming committee settled on three options for the 1,000-seat school in October, ahead of the building’s planned opening next fall. But that collection of parents and community members hasn’t been able to settle on a definitive recommendation as the School Board gears up for a vote on the matter.

The 28-member committee was instead split down the middle on two options for the building: naming it simply “Stratford Middle School,” or dubbing it “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building.”

The group initially considered “Legacy Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” as an option, but that choice fell out of favor as the process advanced. The committee even floated the compromise possibility of naming the building “Stratford-Hamm Middle School,” but stopped short of recommending such an option.

The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, currently houses the H-B Woodlawn program, but was once the site of Stratford Junior High School. That’s believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, lending plenty of historic significance to the site and its name.

But the “Stratford” name itself comes from a considerably darker part of the nation’s past. The name is derived from Stratford Hall, the plantation home of Robert E. Lee and his family in Westmoreland County.

Considering that the school system is in the midst of a contentious process to strip Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School, any association with the Confederate general has the potential to kick off a new firestorm of controversy in the county. Accordingly, some members of the naming committee championed naming the building after Dorothy Hamm, a civil rights activist who helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford.

“The event signified the end of massive resistance in the commonwealth of Virginia and dealt a powerful blow to the opponents of racial equality nationwide,” Ellen Smith, the incoming principal of the new middle school, wrote in a letter to the Board. “While Hamm was the community activist at the forefront of the campaign to integrate Arlington Public Schools, she was not the only community activist that was determined to integrate Arlington schools so that all students would have the opportunity to receive an equal education.”

Smith noted in her letter that the committee was determined to see “Stratford” remain part of the name somehow, in order to maintain “the clear connection between the name of the school” and its historic integration. But by including it only as addendum beyond Hamm’s name, Smith wrote that some on the committee fear it will be “dropped from regular use.”

That’s why many would much rather simply name the school “Stratford.” The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board endorsed such an option, castigating the school system in a letter for even considering the possibility of a name other than Stratford “without any apparent prior consideration of the uniqueness and the historical and cultural significance” of the site.

A special committee convened by Superintendent Patrick Murphy to debate “Historic Interpretation at the Former Stratford Junior High School” reached a similar conclusion, noting that the school has earned inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

“That the Stratford name comes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee is an uncomfortable part of the history, but not the most important part,” Susan Cunningham, the co-chair of that committee, wrote in an email to ARLnow. “As community historian Dr. Arnold Taylor reminds us, ‘We have to understand where we are coming from so we can appreciate where we are going’… Names matter. History matters. At Stratford, the civil rights history matters most.”

Smith urged the Board to consider the opinions of both the commission and the review board, but otherwise would not take a firm position beyond suggesting one of the two names.

The Board will discuss naming options for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 6), with a final vote set for Dec. 20.

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SunTrust Bank will close its branch in the Safeway at 3713 Lee Hwy on Feb. 5 — its second branch closure in Arlington on that day.

The bank told clients earlier in November that their accounts will be transferred to the Lee-Old Dominion branch at 4710 Lee Highway, unless clients specify a different location, Hugh Suhr, a spokesman for SunTrust, told ARLnow.

The branch at 249 N. Glebe Road is also set to close on that day.

Clients’ accounts at the branch on Glebe Road will be transferred to either the Arlington Gateway branch at 901 N. Glebe Road or the South Arlington branch at 3108 Columbia Pike, unless clients indicate a different location, Suhr said.

In May, SunTrust, which is based in Atlanta, was hit with a massive data breach that compromised 1.5 million customer accounts.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Joyful Spirits Gifts Catholic store in Cherrydale is now set to close by the end of the year.

Owner Meg Rydzewski wrote in a Facebook post that the shop, located at 3315 Lee Highway in the Lee Centre strip mall, will shutter permanently sometime in late December.

In the post, Rydzewski noted that the store “has faced a steep decline in sales in the last few months,” a development she attributes to the latest sexual abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released this summer revealed extensive allegations of child abuse against priests in six different Catholic dioceses, which eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the Archdiocese of Washington, among other church leaders.

“Due to ongoing news headlines, I do not expect the trend to change any time soon,” Rydzewski wrote. “Therefore, I have concluded that it is time for me to move on to a new challenge.”

Rydzewski added that she marked down all the store’s wares by 30 percent at the start of this month. By Saturday (Dec. 1), everything in the store will be 50 percent off, and, by Dec. 15, everything will be marked down by 80 percent.

Rydzewski, a published novelist who lives in Arlington, opened the store in September 2014, offering everything from books to baptism and communion gowns. She expressed her “immense gratitude” to patrons over the years in the post.

“I have also been very happy to provide religious education materials and church supplies to local parishes, saving them funds in the process,” she wrote. “Thank you, pastors, for your support! I wish I could continue beyond 2018!”

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

New Elementary School at Reed Site Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a new elementary school for up to 732 students at the Reed site, 1644 N. McKinley Road, in the Westover neighborhood. The Board voted unanimously to approve a use permit amendment for Arlington Public Schools to renovate and expand the existing Reed School/Westover Library to create a neighborhood elementary school.” [Arlington County]

Here’s Where Amazon is Coming, Exactly — Amazon will be leasing office space at three JBG Smith buildings in Crystal City: 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. Amazon also agreed to buy two JBG-owned land parcels in Pentagon City that are approved for development: PenPlace and the remaining portion of Metropolitan Park. [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Discusses Legislative Priorities — “A highlight of the County’s package is a call for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that was proposed by Congress in 1972. Both the Arlington League of Women Voters, and the Arlington Civic Federation have called on the General Assembly to ratify the ERA.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Projects Win at NAIOP Awards — Nine of the 29 real estate development projects lauded at the Best of NAIOP Northern Virginia Awards on Nov. 15 were Arlington projects. [NAIOP]

Neighborhood Conservation Projects Funded — “The Arlington County Board today approved $2.9 million in Neighborhood Conservation bond funds for projects in Cherrydale and Arlington Forest… The $1.84 million Cherrydale project will improve N. Monroe Street, between 17th Street North and 19th Street North… The $1.08 million Arlington Forest project will make improvements to Edison Park.” [Arlington County]

How DIRT Chose Ballston — “DIRT co-founders @jlatulip and @jamcdaniel visited many parts of D.C. and the greater DMV area before deciding to open in Ballston. ‘We noticed very quickly that this was a special community, one that we could call home and grow with. We love the energy of the neighborhood — Ballston is a young, active community, which fits DIRT perfectly.'” [Instagram]

Verizon FiOS Outage — Verizon’s FiOS service suffered a major outage in the D.C. area yesterday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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A naming committee is narrowing down its options for a moniker for the new middle school taking the place of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale.

The 1,000-seat middle school is set to open next fall, and a committee of parents and community members charged with picking a name for the building has settled on three finalists, according to an anonymous tipster and confirmed by school system spokesman Frank Bellavia. Those include:

  • Stratford Middle School
  • Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the historic Stratford building
  • Legacy Middle School at the historic Stratford building

The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, was once the site of Stratford Junior High School, and has long been recognized as one of the valuable historic sites in the county. The old Stratford school is believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Even still, there’s been some hesitancy to simply name the school “Stratford,” given the name’s association with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall was the plantation home of the Lee family, and any association with Lee is quite fraught in Arlington Public Schools circles at the moment. The school system is also in the process of changing the name of Washington-Lee High School to remove Lee’s name from the building, a move that’s prompted a lawsuit and fierce community debate.

“Many (including the committee responsible for commemorating these events in the new school and the director of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington) expressed strong interest in keeping the Stratford name given the significance of the events on the site,” naming committee member Caroline Holt wrote in a letter to the community, which was provided to ARLnow. “Others expressed interest in finding a name that commemorates what the school will represent or that honors the events there without calling it Stratford (e.g., similar to Discovery Elementary which could not be named after John Glenn as he is still living).”

Hamm also has a connection to Stratford’s history with integration. As a civil rights activist, she helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford. Her daughter, Carmela, became one of the first African American students to attend Stratford.

Hamm also participated in a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington, including efforts to end the segregation of county theaters and the poll tax. Bellavia says the school system is currently in the process of contacting Hamm’s family to make them aware of her inclusion as a possible honoree at Stratford.

The naming committee is set to deliver a recommendation on a name to the School Board in time for its Dec. 6 meeting, with a final vote set for Dec. 20.

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Morning Notes

Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]

Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]

Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]

New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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